02/15/2011 3:27PM

Casino developer sues Laurel owners

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The developer of a casino near Laurel Park in Maryland has filed a lawsuit against the track’s owners claiming that they conspired to defame the company in their attempts to stop the casino from being built.

The Cordish Cos. filed the lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court on Tuesday, according to a copy of the suit provided by the lawyers representing Cordish. The suit, which is seeking $600 million in damages, names the Maryland Jockey Club, Penn National Gaming Inc., MI Developments, the owners and trustees of Indiana Downs, and Frank Stronach, the chairman and chief executive of MI Developments, as defendants.

The suit alleges that the defendants defamed the company while seeking to get a referendum placed on the ballot last year that would have overturned the casino’s zoning approvals. The referendum was rejected by the county’s voters, clearing the way for the casino to be built.

In the case of the Maryland Jockey Club’s owners, which include Penn National and MI Developments, the suit states that the companies defamed Cordish in an attempt to influence voting in the referendum and ultimately steer the single casino license in Anne Arundel County to Laurel Park. But in the case of Indiana Downs, the suit states that the owners of the company participated in the defamation of the company in order to put pressure on Cordish as the two companies attempted to resolve a conflict over a management contract covering aspects of the operation of a casino at Indiana Downs.Tom Chuckas, the president of the Maryland Jockey Club, called the suit “baseless and full of unsupported speculation and innuendo” in a prepared statement.“It amounts to no more than another attempt by the Cordish Cos. to restrain First Amendment freedom of speech relating to a constitutionally protected referendum,” Chuckas said.

– Matt Hegarty